The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sat, 01/26/2008 3:04 AM Life
JAKARTA (JP): When one lays eyes on him, it is difficult to figure him out as a cook. Don't expect too see his clothes stained with cooking oil and spices, and don't assume he will smell like the food he cooks.
With a smile never far from his youthful face, popular cook Rudy Choirudin Soedarso smells good, and looks very much like a celebrity clad in the latest fashion.
But when the 35-year-old cook gets down to business, he becomes really serious.
With an apron covering his clothes, he carefully explains the ingredientsneeded to make each dish, showing the prepared ingredients to the audience before proceeding with the cooking.
Creativity is what makes his food different and tasty. In his hands, simple traditional food becomes a delicious meal. He uses his knowledge to mix various foods.
""I'm hoping that I can help popularize Indonesian food,"" said Rudy, who specializes in Indonesian cuisine but is also a master of European, Japanese and Chinese cooking.
""I wish that Indonesian food can be found abroad, too.""
Cooking runs in his blood.
Rudy has had a love for cooking since he was a child, and learnt the skills from his family, especially his mother. His mother used to run a food stall, restaurant and catering service to earn extra money to help herpolice officer husband raise their seven children. Her children, including Rudy, would help her in the business.
It's no wonder that by fifth grade, Rudy could already cook himself macaroni schootel, his favorite food.
""For a fifth grader, macaroni was expensive. That's why I changed it withinstant noodles,"" giggled the single man.
But being a cook is not his real dream.
Rudy actually wanted to be a doctor. But he had to give up his dream and swallow the bitter facts after he failed, for the second time, the exam to enroll in Surabaya's Airlangga University School of Medicine.
This was a real disappointment for him. But he rejected his family's suggestion to study other subjects, such as law.
""At that time, I was telling myself, why shouldn't I do what I really love to, cooking? From my mother, I saw that through her cooking, she couldhelp my father earn a living for the family,"" said the Surabaya native.
It was then that he decided to study food and beverage at the Trisakti Tourism Academy in 1985.
Although his family love his cooking, they were not in favor of his decision to study it seriously. They thought he would end up a restaurant chef or owner, which are not as prestigious as other professions, such as alawyer.
""At that time, only my mother and one of my sisters supported my decision,"" said the sixth child.
He proved to them that his decision was right.
Apart from pursuing the title, Rudy also used the academy to further develop his talents and prove that he is a good cook.
His first break came when he was challenged by his lecturer to take part in a national food competition. He sent two of his original recipes to the Nila Chandra's food and cake competition in 1987, and won second place. He also was placed second in two other competitions in the same year.
The next year, he came first in three different food competitions.
Since then, life has run smoothly for Rudy. Right after graduation, he took up a position as a restaurant manager. But with not so much to challenge him, he lasted only two-and-half years in the job.
Rudy is a man who wants to try everything. He worked in the food section of a women's magazine, and took up a teaching position in an institute. In 1990, he became a member of the judging panels of two international food festivals in Hong Kong: the International Honey Food Festival and the Hong Kong Food Festival.
But his real break came when he was offered to host private TV station RCTI's Selera Nusantara cooking program in 1991. The program was jointly organized with Kartini women's magazine.
The cooking program, which also offered entertainment, turned out to be afavorite program of viewers. The show was even considered one of the top-40cooking programs in the world by a French television station.
Until today, every Saturday morning, the station still runs Rudy's cooking program, Resep Rudy Oke, now in cooperation with Wanita Indonesia tabloid.
Besides hosting the TV show, Rudy also hosts cooking programs on radio stations, writes best-selling recipe books -- the latest aimed at busy career women -- holds cooking displays in various cities, is a judge for cooking competitions and has appeared in various advertisements.
In spite of all this fame, Rudy is still modest and fun.
After presenting his latest food creation, the world's longest pepes tuna, a steamed 1.75-meter-long and 90-kilogram tuna wrapped in banana leaves, which took him two-days to prepare and was presented at Megamal Pluit in North Jakarta on Wednesday, he wiped sweat from his face and talked to The Jakarta Post backstage.
Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Question: You do many things. What do you say your profession is?
Answer: I am a cook for entertainment. I do not cook for restaurants or hotels. What I am doing is simply for educational reasons. I want to share my knowledge with those who need it.
Do you think you are successful?
Yes, thank God. My wish was not exactly like this, but God gives me more.My wish is actually really simple ... but it turns out that God has given me more, so I want to share my knowledge with others.
What is your wish, actually?
It's simple, really. I want to be useful and I want everything I give to others to be useful too. The first thing is certainly my knowledge. Simple,right.
What's happened to your wish of becoming a doctor?
(He laughs hard) It has not come true, all right. But me and a doctor arethe same, you know. We both make resep. But a doctor's patients are sick people, while my patients are beautiful people.
(In Indonesian, doctors give resep, or prescriptions, and a cook also makes resep, or recipes)
What's your key to success?
First, honesty, and then, discipline. I always try to be disciplined, at least on myself. I can't ask others to be disciplined if I'm not.
For me, it's better to spend more time doing something as long as it makes you satisfied. And I thank my late parents for that. They taught me about honesty and discipline although they did not know what I would becomethen.
Here, cooking is considered a woman's job. Is it OK with you to do it?
I know that it's not a common thing for people here to see man doing the cooking. Why? Because here, it is usually housewives who do the cooking.
But in my opinion, cooking is art and art can belong to everyone. So, I do not mind cooking although I am a man.
And I have no plans to take on a housewife's job. Instead, I'm helping them to prepare food for their families in an easy but fast way, so they can enjoy themselves too instead of spending all their time cooking.
So cooking is an art, it can belong to either men, women, the poor or therich. It's for everyone to enjoy it.
Does that mean you hate eating out?
Oh, don't get me wrong. I love eating out. I'm not picky about food. Sometimes, I'm eating out not only to entertain myself, but also to find something new. Whenever I eat something, I think of the recipe needed to make the food.
But when I'm invited to eat out, I only keep my opinion, if the food lacks something, deep in my heart. I won't say anything unless I'm asked, 'What do you think of the food, Rud?'. Then, I will say my opinion, then just don't feel offended.
Why can't Indonesian food be as popular as Chinese and Japanese food?
I have talked about the matter many times. In my opinion, Indonesian foodcan be as popular as Chinese and Japanese food if, in the first place, we can appreciate our food. If we can appreciate our food, we won't like otherpeople's food.
So, anytime there's foreign guests coming to the country, or visiting your house, serve them Indonesian food, not foreign food. They'll like it, because it's the country's specialty. And with our promotion, Indonesian food can become popular. After it becomes popular, there will be no problemopening franchises abroad.
Don't you ever want to run your own restaurant?
Not now. But I will consider it if there's an offer from someone who has the same ideas as me, emphasizing Indonesian food.
With your tight schedule, do you have time for yourself?
No, I'm the kind of person who enjoys everything that I have. If I'm in Jakarta and I don't have any activities scheduled for me, I would rather not go anywhere, I stay at home most of the time, taking care of my antiques or my birds.
What do you really want to do in your life?
I want to be like my mother, selling nasi bungkus (rice boxes) anywhere. So, don't be surprised if you see me one day selling nasi bungkus ... I remember that I used to help my mother prepare it when I was a kid. I really enjoyed it. And it is not only about the material gain, but I feel some kind of satisfaction.